A Protein Packed Snack

In my mission to eat less processed food and to make more homemade recipes I really wanted to make a breakfast/snack item that was quick and packed with protein.  I was leaning towards making dried granola but then I found on Pinterest a ton of different variations of a granola energy/protein ball.

BINGO! Just what I was wanting.

I sorta winged my recipe, patching it together from a few different ones I found online. I was very happy with how these turned out.
2.5 cups of quick oats
1 cup of ground flax seed
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of vanilla
1/2 of dried fruit (I used cranberries)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolates
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. I used a cookie scooper to scoop the oatmeal goodness. Finally, place in the freezer for one hour.

To make mine easy and ready-to-go I bagged 3 balls per mini baggie and they are all just chilling in the freezer till I need them.
Per my calculations each ball is roughly 180 calories and 5 grams of protein and 21 grams of carbohydrates. I probably could find ways to make them less caloric and have more protein but this was a super quick recipe that I'm sure will become a regular.
I'm pretty sure this was the first bake sale I have ever participated in. Is that odd for being 28 years old?

Anyway, the bake sale was to raise funds for an amazing organization, Special Olympics Minnesota. I am participating in their annual Polar Plunge Event.

Why? Is jumping into freezing cold icy water with recent temps that have been historically low on my bucket list? No. Is promoting people of all abilities or disabilities to a have a healthier, better and more joyous life something I want to support? YES!

The plunge is February 1st in St. Peter, MN. I'm very excited and thankful for all of the donations I have received so far.

The bake sale took place at work since there are I believe 13 others jumping (total there are over 500 jumping at the St. Peter location). I made Raspberry Grapefruit Bread, Italian Parmesan Bread, Cinnamon Raisin Bread and brought along jars of Peach Bourbon Jelly and Pickled Sweet Peppers. Thank God (and the people who bought) everything sold!

I haven't heard a final count but I think over $500 was raised. AMAZING! There was such a great turn out of tons of different homemade baked goods. YUM!

What are some items you have brought to a bake sale? What are some local organizations you support?
A and I went on a true winter wonderland adventure. Snow Shoeing!
I hadn't been snow shoeing since my senior year in college and A had never been. I was excited.
The weather was really nice. (we went last weekend) Twenty degrees and very little wind.

To make sure I was prepared for the hike I made sure I had a warm base layer of clothing.
Cotton T-shirt, leggings and wool socks.  Then I layered on top of that. Fleece lined hoodie, snow pants and a wind/water proof jacket.

I also wore my modern "fanny pack" the baggallini triple zip bag. It is a great bag that can be used as wallet, around the waist or cross body. Perfect for just a few items like a headlamp, ID, cash etc.

The hike was hosted by Bent River Outfitters. For $30 a person you get transportation to the hike starting point from the outfitter and back, snow shoe rentals, a snack, a drink and a guide.

The weekend prior there were 24 people on the hike, the day we went there was only A and I. It was really nice to have a private tour. We kept a brisk pace and hiked on The Big Cobb River for about 2 miles. Then set up a fire and had a snack. Talked around the fire, let it burn down and then shoed the 2 miles back.

We saw deer, bald eagles, turkey tracks, multiple beaver dams and heard owls talking back and forth.
It was a really great evening spent perfectly enjoying the outdoors and the winter season.

Minnesota Vegan Q&A

Q&A is a format that showcases a blogger in their own words and gives us an avenue to better get to know the writer behind the screen. Minding Minnesota asks the questions and Minnesota Vegan so graciously answers! Enjoy! 
Why do you choose to be a vegan?
"I wanted to be as cool as my friend, Shawn, in high school. I had been vegetarian on and off since age 9 when I visited a farm and befriended a very noisy goose, only to find out he had become dinner the following week. It just seemed a little...off to me. Like, I wouldn't want my companion animal killed for food? This goose had a personality-he was sassy as hell. 
I went completely vegan in 2005 after meeting Shawn. and learning how she did the vegan thing. She is such a cool lady and it seemed like the only thing to do. I think many people that go vegan for animal rights reasons find that they decide to commit fully because they can't find any more excuses not to. Though I'm not an activist by definition (and I fucking hate PETA for crazy-making vegans), I choose to live by example. People really notice when you're not showy/leave a little mystery and tend to ask more questions as opposed to be defensive about being educated about veganism. Then you're just like "yeah, veganism's the best, NBD, it's a no-brainer, why would you not?" and people tend to take that as you knowing what the hell you're doing."
How long have you been a vegan? Did you gradually make the transition or jump right in?
"Since late 2005-ish so a little over 8 years I think? I round up to 10 when I'm asked in public just for clout/funsies/shitsngigs."
Why blog about it?  
"Honestly, my blog is the one place I get to write (briefly! I'm lazy) about what I think the best vegan eats in Minnesota are as well as just dually act like an asshole. I can't even believe people read the stuff I write sometimes. My brain is so weird."
What are some of your favorite local eateries that have vegan menus or vegan menu items?
"Depends on what you're going for! But I will name just a few...
1. Isle Bun and Coffee for the best (BEST) vegan scones I have ever laid my mouth on. Dip that sucker in coffee and you are in heaven, promise.
2. French Meadow for best vegan fancy eats.
3. Ecopolitan for quality vegan raw food, if you're into that sort of thing. Also! If you're willing to make the trek to Menomonie, WI, Raw Deal is a gem for raw eats.
4. Triple Rock Social Club for the freaking best vegan bbq po' boy I have ever EVER had. Get it with nacho cheez.
5. Bull Dog NE for the best vegan beet burger ever (with amazing flavors).
6. Hard Times for the best hungover brunch (get the vegan biscuits and gravy or I'll punch myself).
7. Pizza Luce for vegan slice Thursdays at the St Paul location!! Otherwise, they have a mean bbq sauce pizza called the Rustler that kicks so much ass, it's insane. Tons of vegan "Italian"-style food here.
8. Glam Doll Donuts for vegan donuts. Ugh...I can't seem to pull myself away from this place. It is intense right now because they just started serving them. Like, when I see the vegan bakery case, I hear harps playing.
9. Evergreen Chinese for the best vegan Chinese EVER. EVERRR. Get the mock-fried pepper pork.
10. Muddy Waters (holler at ya girl!) for the best fancy bar vegan eating experience. Tons of good stuff.
I think that about covers it! Check Happycow.com for the best."
Are there any local vegan meet-ups, groups or social events you attend?
"Ethique Nouveau/ARC (completely vegan shop in South Minneapolis THAT SELLS VEGAN WHITE CHOC CHIPS) and CAA (U of M's vegetarian organization) are great places to meet some like-minded peeps, but I met all my closest vegan friends through Ethique Nouveau/ARC. They are some of the best people I know. The Minneapolis Vegan Meet Up is a pretty good resource for meeting others too! Personally though, I rarely have time which is super bummer road."
Have you noticed a change in the local vegan eatery landscape in the last few years? More places with menu items or solely vegan menus? Expanding menus and meals? Pricing?
"Oh heck yes. Though the Twin Cities is home to only one completely vegan restaurant (Ecopolitan, raw vegan food), we are freaking lucky to have so many places that offer vegan options now. Vegan is on the map, and I no longer walk into place and get the puzzled "wtf are you talking about?" look. I have extreme gratitude for restaurants that are flexible that way. Ten years ago, you couldn't find that stuff around here as well unless you dug a little."
If you could plan your ideal meal: appetizer, entrée and dessert from differing local places what would the items be and from where?
"Oh! Favorite question by far. I'm a big fan of brunch, so I'd do brunch at Hard Times with some vegan biscuits and gravy (black coffee too), dinner/dessert would be at either Evegreen Chinese or French Meadow if I was feeling swanky. Depends on my mood. You can frequently find me in sweatpants sooo..."
Thank you so much Minnesota Vegan for taking the time to educate and share some local vegan eateries. Keep blogging on about your passion! 

Guest Post: Fiddle & Frog

Why Buy Handmade?

As someone who creates handmade products, I sometimes forget why it’s so important to buy handmade.  Once I sit down and remind myself of the many reasons to purchase handmade goods, I’m inspired to do better work myself, and keep the wonderful cycle of handmade going around.  Here are my top five reasons to buy handmade.

When you purchase a handmade product, you have a good chance of meeting the artist personally, especially if you shop at craft shows or small boutique-type shops.  Even buying online (like at Etsy.com) can give you a little insight into the artist that created your purchase if you read the artist bio posted on each online shop page.  Chances are you have no idea who made the things you buy from a big-box store.  Plus, there’s usually a story behind everything that‘s made by hand, and you’ve got a good chance of learning that story if you buy handmade.

Speaking of big-box stores, how many things (say toys or furniture) have you purchased at a large chain store that you would like to (or be able to because they’re still intact) pass down through generations in your family?  Buying handmade means a good chance of improved durability and longer life for your family’s favorite toys and other goods.  Handmade hand-me-downs are way more acceptable (in my book) than store-bought stuff.
(A doll or action figure bed created by Fiddle& Frog)

Chances are you know of a handmade-product maker around your area.  Purchasing goods from artists or crafters you know of helps support your local economy.  On a larger scale, buying handmade can help support small businesses nationwide!

(Dolls created by Fiddle & Frog)

There’s a good chance the handmade item you’ve purchased is unique.  One-of-a-kind.  No neighbor has one the same.  Isn’t it a cool feeling knowing you’ve got a really original piece of work?  It could even be a design you came up with and requested of the artist.  You sure don’t get that kind of input when you shop non-handmade!

Shopping for handmade is just plain fun.  Browsing a craft fair or checking out a local craft shop or even shopping in an online handmade marketplace can be a really enjoyable experience as you meet some real, live artists and explore lots of unique items.  No two craft shows are alike, just as no two artists are alike.  You’ll find new ideas and new products at every show or small shop you check out.

There are probably a million more reasons to buy handmade, but these are some that are most important to me.  I hope you’re inspired to check out that local craft shop or fair.  Please do spend some time browsing Etsy or another online marketplace.  Try to connect with local artists and crafters in your area.  I think you’ll find it is so worth it to buy handmade! 
NOTE:  I hope the above reasons to buy handmade don’t make it sound like I’m totally against shopping at big-box or chain stores.  I totally realize that the convenience these stores offer is sometimes really important in our busy lives.  Let’s be honest...sometimes I shop at them myself.  I’d simply like to urge you to consider the benefits of buying handmade when you can.

Kristin Gontea is co-owner and artist at Fiddle & Frog, a small craft company that makes toys, games, room décor and more for kids of all ages.  When not busy creating fun handmade items, Kristin and her sister Amy (the other half of Fiddle & Frog) host Craft Bees and Home Parties.  Visit Fiddle & Frog online at www.fiddleandfrogcrafts.blogspot.com or  www.facebook.com/fiddleandfrogcrafts or check out their online shop at www.etsy.com/shop/fiddleandfrog
UffdaUffdaUffda is a Minneapolis based business that specializes in handmade state pride ornaments.
I was particularly drawn to these because they are (1) made locally (2) can be personalized and are (3) so unique.

I have several family members in the military and thought these would be very cute to have for each state they live in throughout their career.  As we all know military personnel and their families can be moved around quite a bit.  This moving builds character and also tells their life story that could be showcased on a Christmas tree.

What I also love about these is that the heart can be placed anywhere on the ornament. Truly home is where the heart is. This could be a very special gift for someone spending their first Christmas away from "home".

UffdaUffdaUffda creatively also makes a DIY version of the ornaments. Fantastic for crafty kids or for even more opportunity to personalize the ornament.

UffdaUffdaUffda's etsy store can be found here. She was a pleasure to work with and I highly recommend the product and in her words, "Love where you live".
Hello Lovelies!
This is Stephanie from over at
A Little Polish. I have been friends with Victoria now for over ten years and so when she told me she started a blog, I was more than happy to offer up a guest post for her. While her blog is a little bit of everything around Minnesota living, mine is solely nail polish & nail art, so today I will be sharing with you some tips for taking care of your nails during the winter months, and also a Minnesota themed mani.

The cold winter weather can be very harsh on your nails, I live in Pennsylvania and it is bad here, so I can only imagine that since Minnesota is even further north, that it can’t be any better. The winter air really dries out your hands, cuticles and nails, so here are some tips for keeping your nails healthy during the winter months.

1.       Good cuticles are the basis for good nails! Make sure to keep your cuticles moisturized during the winter months (and the summer if you have dry skin). I am lucky that I have fairly nice cuticles on my own without using cuticle oil on a regular basis (or at least that’s what my friends tell me lol) but cuticle oil / moisturizer is a good way to keep them hydrated. You can purchase cuticle oil anywhere, from the drugstore, to Walmart, to higher end stores like Ulta and Sephora. Additionally, a lot of indie polish makers make and sell cuticle oil / moisturizer as well!  Bonus Tip: Don’t cut your cuticles! If they are getting long, gently push them back with an orange stick.

2.       Protect your nails and you manis by wearing base and top coats! Have you ever had a mani that has completely stained your nails? Richly saturated colors can be notorious for never wanting to leave your nails, especially greens and blues, and one way to help protect your nails is with base coat. Base coat can also help if you have weak or brittle nails and are trying to grow them. My go-to base coat is OPI Nail Envy. Top coats can help to protect a mani, make it last longer, smooth out rough glitter looks and even improve drying time. I wear topcoat over ALL my manis; my go-to top coat is IMN Out The Door, similar quick drying top coats can be found at drugstores, beauty stores and online. Bonus Tip: If your quick drying topcoat is getting “stringy” try adding a thinning agent, such as Seche Restore to restore the consistency.

3.       Choose your nail polish remover wisely! In my mind, there are two main types of nail polish remover, acetone and non-acetone. Each of those has “sub-categories” for example, 100% acetone or strengthening non-acetone remover. While acetone remover gets the polish off quickly it also can dry out your nails, cuticles and skin super-fast, and we know that this leads to cracked skin and brittle nails. My recommendation for removing your standard polish would be any non-acetone remover. You can purchase these pretty much anywhere. I personally, use a strengthening non-acetone remover on a regular basis and stick to acetone or 100% acetone to remove manis under certain circumstances, such as hard to get off polish like glitter, or even removal of gel/shellac manis. Bonus Tip: Try the “Foil Method” to remove particularly stubborn manis.

Now that we know about nail care, let’s move on to my look. Victoria asked me to create something Minnesota inspired, and suggested maybe something with one of the sports teams (being from Pittsburgh, I do a lot of sports themed manis, although I have to admit, I have never done one for another team!) I decided to do something inspired by the Minnesota Golden Gophers team colors.

Polished Used:
-OPI - Nail Envy
-OPI - I'm Not Really A Waitress
-Essie - As Gold As it Gets
-Out The Door

This is a simple look that anyone can wear  to show support for the Golden Gophers. Adding a special effect topper can really change the look of a plain mani. Another fun thing to keep in mind is that there is no set rule for how many nails can be "accent nails"; as you can see, here I have done 2 and 2.

I hope you enjoyed my nail care tips and Minnesota themed mani! If you are interested in nail art, please feel free to stop by my blog, facebook page or Instagram to keep in touch! Finally, best of luck to Victoria and her new blog, and thanks for having me :)

Willow Creek Soap is a handmade soap made locally in Minnesota. I originally found this soap at the Mankato Famers Market.

I have bought several of their scents over the summer months, I have really fallen in love with their Sandalwood.

Willow Creek's Sandalwood soap is warm, creamy and manly. It has a definite smell without being overbearing. The bar soap lathers well (not super bubbly) and with ease will clean away sweat and grime. Willow Creek Soap never uses animal products, it's base is made from olive, coconut or soy oils.

I really enjoy buying this soap in person at the farmers market. It just puts a smile on my face to purchase a local product that works so well and is natural.

I can't wait to continue to try out their different scents and also their different soap lines. They have quite a few lines: herbal soaps, floral scents, fruity scents, oatmeal blends, up north soaps, Minnesota mud and global garden hemp soaps.

Willow Creek Soap can be purchased online as well, they can be found here.
What local bath or beauty products do you recommend? Are there any Minnesotan hair, skin or nail products that you know of? 

Life on the lake is beautiful. Most people probably think it is a quiet, destitute place in the winter. Not so. Frozen over and dusted with snow, the lake is still as busy as ever. Just look at all those ice houses and portables.
This is the view out the kitchen window. Definitely, I have more neighbors now then I did all summer! We even have the picture perfect man sitting on his pail trying to catch the big one.
Weather doesn't keep Minnesotans off the lakes. Not when it's 101F or -40F! Ice fishing is still relatively new to A. and I. A. loves to fish and can't wait to one day have his own ice house or portable. I may tag along with a book and a bottle of wine. Fishing honestly isn't my thing but I sure do love to people watch from the kitchen window.
How adorable are these!

I am a huge fan of this whole personalized/monogram trend, who isn't?

Growing up, we never hung our clothes to dry outside. Ok, maybe a beach towel over the deck but definitely not clothes and we did not have a clothes line.

Since moving out into the "country" (I put that in quotes because we don't live in town but we can see our nearest neighbors) I took full advantage this past summer of our clothing line.

I miss it now that winter is here.

I even found the line was a little short and maybe will expand it this coming summer.

Anywho, when I was looking for clothes pins I found these super adorable personalized ones on etsy.com.

Of course, who really needs personalized ones? No one is going to steal mine other than a crow or a possibly that pesky squirrel. But who can resist!

Not only do I use mine to hang clothes but I also attached a magnet to the back and now some proudly stick to the fridge.
Now these personalized magnets hold photos, recipes, important papers etc
This lovely product was purchased from Etched In Time LLC. The seller was great to work with, professional, speedy delivery and quick with communication.  Happy customer!

Oh the hot dish, a classic that is definitely native to Minnesota.  It is a fail safe recipe that is perfect for so many occasions...family dinners, church pot luck, bringing to an ill neighbor, new mother etc.

It's popularity is most likely based in the fact that it is a budget conscious meal, very hearty and my personal favorite...it can be made ahead, frozen and saved for later.

For those that don't know, a hot dish is essentially what the rest of the US calls a casserole. The base ingredients are a starch, canned soup, meat and vegetable.

There are many varieties to this classic dish but here is how I make mine:

Tater Tot Hot Dish

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds of ground beef (you could probably get away with using 1 pound but we like it extra meaty)
1 package of tater tots (you most likely won't use the whole package)
2 cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup corn
1 cup green beans
salt and pepper for taste

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Brown ground beef, season with salt and pepper, drain off grease
3. Mix vegetables and meat and place in a hot dish (casserole) oven safe pan
4. Spread cream of mushroom soup over top. Do not add water.
5. Arrange tater tots on top.
6. Bake uncovered for 50 minutes.

And here it is a finished product! Yum!

How do you make your Tater Tot Hot Dish? What are your favorite memories or events that have included this great Minnesota recipe?

What is your business?  When was it established? 
Ginger P Designs is a stationery business that specializes in custom wedding invitations, save the dates, programs, modern greeting cards and other custom paper goods. Established in 2010. 
Where are you based out of? 
Janesville, MN near Mankato MN 
Why are you in business? 
When we got married, my favorite part was designing our invitations and we got lots of positive feedback on them so that gave me the confidence to open my own etsy shop just for a fun side thing where I could earn some extra shopping money :)
What is your education? Prior Work Experience?  How did you get the skills necessary to run this type of business? 
I have a bachelors degree in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and I worked for a company in Mankato doing Marketing and graphic design where I worked full time before pursuing Ginger P full time in 2012! I am a self-taught graphic designer, but my marketing/business background definitely helped me in the promotion and accounting part of the business that I feel many who first start running a business on their own either don't enjoy, struggle with or have to hire someone for those duties. 
How did you get started in business? 
I opened an etsy shop online and grew my online business through that and also relied on being at "that age" where a lot of our friends were getting married which helped to spread the word locally for what I do.
Can you describe your customers? 
They are a lot like me :) I typically base new products or ideas on the notion of "would I like it?" "would I want that?" because my typical customer is a bride in her 20's who enjoys good design and personal touches. 
What is in the future for your business?
I hope to continue to do what I love everyday whether that is out of my home or a small studio somewhere, but no matter what I always hope to be in the stationery industry because it is my passion. 
Where do you locally advertise/market or sell your items in Minnesota? 
I have done several bridal shows in the Mankato area, along with recently reaching out to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and have had great success with those and enjoy the face to face time with brides-to-be. I have never done a craft market or etsy pop-up shop but I do think that would be fun to try someday.

A word from GingerPDesigns:
Get in on the latest and greatest from Ginger P Designs… GINGER MAIL! Ginger Mail is a service that delivers a variety of greeting cards, stationery items and other fun surprises to your mailbox every 6 weeks! Maybe you are too busy to go and get cards when you need them most, a procrastinator, or you just enjoy getting creative and fun pieces in the mail, who doesn’t right :)
What do I get?
Every 6 weeks you will receive a package of greeting cards, stationery items and other fun surprises. Each time there will be a theme, so all of your items relate to one another, and the items will correlate with the upcoming season. An example for one package of Ginger Mail for April 15th would be: Mother’s Day greeting Card(s), mini spring pennant banner to hang in your home, a “congrats” greeting card to use for any May/June graduations, May calendar page, fun recipe card for the grilling season, Wedding wishes greeting card, gift tag for wrapping, and drink flags!
Picture of our “chalk” themed mailing
 Picture of the "fresh" themed mailing

How can I get signed up?
You can sign up at any time, and stop the service at any time. It is $15 every 6 weeks and you can fill out the form at the bottom of the page with your mailing address and credit card info. Your credit card will be charged the same day as the mailing day. A payment and shipping confirmation email will also be sent that day.
If you would like to purchase Ginger Mail in the increments of 1 mailing, 3 mailings, 5 mailings, or one year (8 mailings) as a gift or for yourself you can do that here:  https://www.etsy.com/listing/166948974/ginger-mail-subscription-greeting-cards?ref=shop_home_active&nc=1     and the on-going subscription can be purchased here: http://justaddgingerp.com/ginger-mail/
The schedule of when Ginger Mail will be sent out is as follows:
January 15th
March 1st
April 15th
June 1st
July 15th
September 1st
October 15th
December 1st

…and it starts all over again!!

Gina Peterson
Planning my wedding was not very stressful. I truly believe it wasn't hectic because I teamed with incredible local entrepreneurs who did an amazing job.

I could not be happier with the service and the products produced by local Minnesotan Gina the creator and owner of GingerPDesigns.

Just look at this adorable Thank You card I used to send to those who attended my bridal showers and even my vendors.
I was so happy with how those turned out. The paper quality she used was thick and firm. I knew I would have her do my wedding programs. Working with her was seamless. She was quick to respond to emails. The creating and editing stage produced a classic program that was finalized within days.
The above photograph was taken by AC Ellis Inc
Delivery, wholly Pete she is fast! I was shocked at how quick the turn around was but really I shouldn't have been considering who smoothly everything else went. I would highly recommend her services.

What local Minnesotan businesses have you teamed with?
I am going to state the obvious...it has been down right frigid so far this winter. Yes, yes, I know I live in Minnesota. But seriously having a high which is still below 0F is just dang right COLD!

It is times like these that I am very thankful for having warm clothes and a warm place to not only be in during the day (my office or the hospital) but also at night (my toasty bed with electric blanket). There are never times when I am searching for shelter. At the very most I run from a warm building to a car that will heat up within minutes. I am blessed.

There are many in our community that are struggling. They don't have this basic essential of life. Locally in Mankato, MN there has been a lot of discussion about how our non-profits are wearing thin try to keep up with the ever growing needs of men, women and children. This includes shelters and emergency housing.

I encourage each of us to find a cause locally and support it. Something that will truly impact a person's day, week, life. Today, I drove down to the Salvation Army and donated just a few toiletries and a pair of wool winter socks. The woman at the front desk was extremely kind and expressed her gratitude. I wish I had given more. I hope to continue to donate either my time or with items the shelter or it's residents need.
Many that seek help at our local shelters are not "bums". They are just like you and me. Some may have "had it all" to only have lost a job, gotten sick or run into trouble and it "all" fell away. Some have mental illness, are veterans, problems with drug or alcohol abuse or "choose" this life. But truly, does it matter? A human cannot survive the elements like this and I refuse to sit by and judge them or think someone else will help. I will help. Will you help?
The Men's Shelter provides a warm place to stay and sleep from 6pm to 8am. There they are able to shower, eat a supper, have fellowship and have morning breakfast. The Salvation Army in Mankato also offers a free noon meal and bread distribution program Monday to Friday. For more information go to The Mankato, MN Salvation Army Please call 507-345-7840 to see what their needs are and how you can volunteer.

How do you give back locally? What charities do you partner with?